The iron law of oligarchy
The iron law of oligarchy is a political theory first developed by the German-born Italian sociologist Robert Michels in his 1911 book, Political Parties. It asserts that rule by an elite, or oligarchy, is inevitable as an “iron law” within any democratic organisation as part of the “tactical and technical necessities” of the organisation.
Michels’s theory states that all complex organisations, regardless of how democratic they are when started, eventually develop into oligarchies. Michels observed that since no sufficiently large and complex organisation can function purely as a direct democracy, power within an organisation will always get delegated to individuals within that group, elected or otherwise.
Using anecdotes from political parties and trade unions struggling to operate democratically to build his argument in 1911, Michels addressed the application of this law to representative democracy, and stated: “Who says organisation, says oligarchy.” He went on to state that “Historical evolution mocks all the prophylactic measures that have been adopted for the prevention of oligarchy.”
According to Michels, all organisations eventually come to be run by a “leadership class”, who often function as paid administrators, executives, spokespersons or political strategists for the organisation.
Far from being “servants of the masses”, Michels argues this “leadership class,” rather than the organisation’s membership, will inevitably grow to dominate the organisation’s power structures.
By controlling who has access to information, those in power can centralise their power successfully, often with little accountability, due to the apathy, indifference and non-participation most rank-and-file members have in relation to their organisation’s decision-making processes.
Michels argues that democratic attempts to hold leadership positions accountable are prone to fail, since with power comes the ability to reward loyalty, the ability to control information about the organisation, and the ability to control what procedures the organisation follows when making decisions. All of these mechanisms can be used to strongly influence the outcome of any decisions made ‘democratically’ by members.
Michels stated that the official goal of representative democracy of eliminating elite rule was impossible, that representative democracy is a façade legitimising the rule of a particular elite, and that elite rule, which he refers to as oligarchy, is inevitable.
Nowhere can this Iron law of Oligarchy be better seen in practice than within the Labour party. The Labour Party has allowed itself not only to be infiltrated but has allowed that cancerous growth to create its own network within the entire political organisation.
The results of which have led to the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of members and even more voters. The party machinery has been taken over, a disconnect has been created between members and the executive.
The organisation has become disjointed and weakened, membership has declined, apathy has taken over, with a “what’s the point” attitude crashing its grassroots support.
It’s ironic, political parties have always recognised the act of entryism, the Labour Party have always guarded against Trotskyites entering from the Left, however, it was the right of the party that let the drawbridge down, now the enemy is within.
The consequence is a compromised Labour party from top-down.
If anyone doubts this Iron Law of oligarchy just look at how deeply compromised the Labour Party has become. You only have to read the suppressed Labour Leaks.
That damning report openly states the Labour Staffers involved had a strong crossover from Lord Peter Mandelson’s group, “Britain Stronger IN For Europe,” an EU referendum Remain organisation and forerunner to Mandelson’s ‘Peoples vote’ campaign.
This is the result of a party that has been compromised, infiltrated and taken over. Both its leader, Sir Keir Starmer and frontbench right-hand man Lord Peter Mandelson can both add to their titles ‘Trilateralist’. Both are members of an organisation that believes democracy is for the elite, while people are to be managed nothing more.
We can also speculate on the two Trilateral Commission members, Starmer and Mandelson, the extent of their involvement in the Labour Leaks, Mandelson with deep connections to the Labour staffers involved in what appears to be a concerted effort to bring down Jeremy Corbyn, and the Labour Party. The other, Starmer, who paid off the staffers in an out of court settlement acting against legal advice, while at the same time for all intents and purposes, suppressing the promised Forde inquiry from becoming public.
If members don’t understand the implication and implicit ethos of what the Leaked report showed allegedly from the staff of the Labour Party GLU then they should read the leaked documents.
In short, Staff sabotaged Labour’s election chances; but worst is the abuse of members who didn’t know they were signing up to be surveilled under a “new Stasi system”. If members don’t understand the implication and implicit ethos, of what those staff did. Then that is a terrifying reality to contemplate.
To grasp the full gravity of the Labour leaks it must be understood, “If her majesty’s opposition has ‘intentionally’ thrown two elections, that’s not just a matter for Labour but for the whole country. You don’t have a democracy if you do ‘NOT’ have an opposition party trying to win.”
It is within this framework we have seen the dramatic collapse of the Labour vote, a direct result of the party failing its founding principles, and the support of its traditional supporters. The seeds of decline were sown following Tony Blair as leader under the banner of New Labour, from which time the party lost its moral compass, the result of which only the Tories and the right-wing have ever benefited.
The current bloodletting within the party is part of a blame game in which Jeremy Corbyn has become a scapegoat for the failure of the party membership, who have prioritised remaining in a neoliberal EU over principles and economic ideology. The insidious politics of the far right is able to exploit a vacuum of electoral participation by a confused electorate.
It is against this background the Labour Party membership will have to assert with some urgency the revising of the principles on which it was founded in creating the politics of economic and social equality. Failure to do so will compound continued decline in electoral support. But to do this Labour members must carry out their own internal revolution and reclaim the Party or stay wedded to an authoritarian oligarchy in perpetuity.
Have no doubts this is a civil war unfortunately the LeFT are acting like falling plates. They have no concept of how to fighting back their only answer seems to be a vague mantra of “stay and fight” a revamped “Remain and reform,” we all know where that ended up.
The Labour Party have one opportunity that is to oppose Starmer, now!
Use conference to your advantage, use democracy to speak truth to power, remember Tony Benn and the Five Essential Questions of Democracy.
If you cannot change the leadership and take full control of the Labour party at conference then the Labour Party will forever cease to be a party of the people. It will be an agency of the Oligarchy run by Trilateralists. The very people and organisation the Party was created to fight.
My favourite last sentence is from Animal Farm by George Orwell:
“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”